The Target Visits scheme involves Cambridge students volunteering to visit schools and FE colleges in the area that they grew up in to talk to students who want to know what life at Cambridge is really like! Unfortunately, prospective students all over the country believe that in order to get into Cambridge they would have to pay extra fees, or that all Cambridge students live an expensive champagne fuelled, superstar lifestyle, that everyone owns land in the country, are boring or are a precocious egghead - maybe even all three! For most students who actually come here, the experience is rather different. No matter how many times the University or the Students' Union invites students and schools to open days and residential visits, they often turn down the opportunity, thinking the University and these schemes aren't for them. So if prospective students won't come to us, we've decided to go to them to help dispel these myths by meeting students first hand and sharing personal experiences!
There are several advantages of visits:
The downside of this is that some areas that do not send many students to Cambridge do not have many volunteers, so some schools and colleges inevitably miss out. For more information go to the Target website.
Generally Target Visits are seen as most pertinent for year 12 (lower sixth) students because they are closest to the application date. The format of talks varies depending on the school or college. They may involve a whole year group (and focus more generally on higher education), or a small group who are deemed by their teachers to have the potential to apply to Cambridge (in which case the talk will be more Cambridge specific). We recommend that students would be made aware of the visit and be allowed to self nominate themselves. One of the key things that we need to get across to students is that it is their decision whether or not to apply, not that of their teachers or parents, although they would be wise to listen to their advice. Some students are actively discouraged from applying to Cambridge for fear that they will not fit in - it is up to us to provide an informed picture of what it is really like so that people can decide for themselves.
In short, our message is that posh kids from public school who lead an expensive lifestyle do not dominate student life at Cambridge. That Cambridge is academically challenging, but that there is plenty of time to make use of the excellent facilities available for drama, music, sport and so on. There is absolutely no point in us going into schools and painting a false picture of Cambridge. There are students at Cambridge who fit pretty nicely into the stereotype; the point is that there are more that do not. Coming to Cambridge you meet a huge variety of people, from many backgrounds different to yourself - from a general educative perspective this can only be good. The thing to emphasise is that there is no premium on coming from one background or another. Cambridge is no greater than the students that make it what it is, and everyone has as much right to be a part of it as anyone else.
Most students will go on Target Visits in the Easter or early summer vacations, as these are the times that schools are most receptive to visits, but there are no requirements. If you'd like to arrange a visit at another time, you can contact the CUSU Access Officer for help and advice.
To get involved just need to sign up online to be a Target Visits volunteer. Simply follow the links, type in your details (eg. where you live) and the database will provide details of a school in your local area that has requested a Target Visit from a Cambridge student. Once you've signed up, just contact the school to arrange a suitable time for your visit.
Find out more about becoming a volunteer, and access volunteer resources which will help you with your task.